I was working in my first record store in Oklahoma City. A guy named Joe worked there too. He was my first fellow Lou Reed fan, and he was gay. Even though I kept up with the glam fanzines, for some time, I still thought Max’s Kansas City was in Kansas City. Joe and I talked about buying big motorcycles and going there. Once I found out it was actually in NY, this period became the only period of my life I thought maybe I should go to NY.
I guess you could say my first two gay influences were Lou Reed and Gore Vidal. If not for them, how many wonderful friends would I have missed knowing? “Walk on the Wild Side” in many ways brought this country out of the closet.
Just hearing “Walk on the Wild Side” filled my head with visions of platform heels and glitz. It became and remains an anthem.
Once I was traveling late at night near the Angelina Forest in South Texas when by some miracle of phantom radio signals, Lou Reed came blaring past the local station the radio was tuned to, and not just “Walk on the Wild Side” but a less commercial song I can no longer remember, coming all the way from Chicago, on the “X.” It was like being transported into another world, out there in the dark, made me realize how many possible realities there are and both how near and how far away they are.
I used to play the darkly beautiful “Berlin” a lot. The juxtaposition of beauty and joyful appreciation of the simple things emerged from a thick shadow of sadness. Here was Lou Reed, the quiet poet.
“Staring at my picture book
she looks like Mary, Queen of Scots
She seemed very regal to me
just goes to show how wrong you can be”
So many of his lines became catch phrases. I always loved “just goes to show how wrong you can be,” because it’s so simple and so true.
When “Rock and Roll Animal” came out, that live version of “Sweet Jane” became my favorite guitar dual of all time. Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter parry through the long intro. The sound quality and production of the song was just amazing. The recording in many ways made everything he’d done before pale in comparison, at least to an electric witch like me. “Berlin” was for a special mood. “Rock and Roll Animal” was the best of everything, for anytime.
Lou Reed is one of the only rockers I really wanted to meet but never got to. The label had arranged a dinner once, but it fell through. Maybe that’s why he’s still an enigma to me. He was a true pioneer, a nucleus of a growing genre of music that came together in different ways at different points in time. He influenced music, art, and most of all culture.
To Lou Reed, in his passing, I’d just like to say, “It was very nice. Oh, Honey, it was paradise.”